I believe that the SHIFT ELearning blog might just be finding inspiration from me!  Here is a recent post from SHIFT which explains some brilliant statistics about the wonders of micro learning  which is taking the corporate world of staff development by storm.  Enjoy reading more reasons why I’m right!

 

 

Making the Most of Supporters

I wrote about this topic in 2014 if you want to check out my original post, click here. Since then, I have learned more about utilising the support that is available to me, whether the support is in my classroom or in the staffroom, I have learned to ask for the help I need.

An important part of being a teacher is managing the resources that are available to us.  We often talk about managing behaviour of students, or taming the piles of paperwork or keeping all the hands on materials in check.  We don’t often talk about how best to manage the human resources that are available to us.  Sometimes these human resources are teacher aides (or educational assistants), parent volunteers, other teachers and even our own family and friends.

Knowing what you need and knowing how to ask for it is a vital part of managing human resources.  People cannot read your mind.  Regardless of their intelligence, willingness to help, or years of experience; people won’t know what you want or need unless you tell them.  This can be a difficult situation for some of us.  Especially if we are not used to asking for help, or if we are not used to leading a team.  Here are a few tips for how to ask/ direct the people who are ready and willing to support you.

  1. Think carefully about what you need to get done in your classroom.
  2. Work out which of the items on your list must be done by you and which ones could be done by someone else.
  3. Decide which days the tasks must be done and/or if there will be a deadline for them.
  4. Assign tasks to the teacher aides/ parent volunteers available to you at the times you need them done.

How you choose to use the skills of people around you is entirely up to you.  Bear in mind that people are better at some things than they are at others.  Some will be more confident and efficient with photocopying/ administration tasks while others will be better with working one to one with students or in small groups.

My teaching partner a few years back is married to a pilot.  Who better to have come and visit our students during the world travel unit? The next year my teaching partner had moved on.  Fortunately, my friend – who has backpacked around Europe, USA, Canada and some parts of Asia – happened to be in Australia, so she came to speak to the students instead.  I haven’t travelled very far, so I knew I would need help with this aspect of my teaching.

My mother is great at sewing, so I asked her to make curtains for my classroom and covers for the chairs.   I am not so great at sewing so I knew it made more sense to ask my mother to help me out.  She has years of experience and is very skilled.  Why waste my time trying to do something that won’t work out nearly as well?  I have far too many things to do that will take up my time.

Know what you need and how to ask for it clearly.  Know how to say thank you.

You will do just fine!

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Tips for Managing Support in the Classroom: Surprise Support!

It’s a lovely day and everything is on track.  The class is working well and everyone is on task, almost.  You are working with a small group of students to reteach an important concept they have missed.  They are finally starting to pick it up.  Everyone else is working independently.  The reading folders are organised and the photocopying is done… well sort of.  Knock Knock…

A parent helper is at the door.  “Hi, Ms H, I am finished helping in my other child’s class for their reading groups.  I have a spare hour, is there anything I can do to help you?”

AAHH!! A hundred little jobs are racing through your mind, but they all need you to leave this group and find resources.  “Mmm, oh, what about…? Oh, wait, that won’t work.  I will need to explain that.  I could ask them to… oh wait, I would have to set up the laminator, which is hidden in the filing cabinet behind the listening post, which is surrounded by children.  What to say? I really need the help! I don’t want to leave this group and give them a chance to lose focus.”

Do you get people knocking at your door, with no warning, offering to help?

Do you have to send them away because you don’t have a task ready to give them?

I have a solution!

Have a Volunteers’ Busy Box in your classroom with ‘odd jobs’ in it.  Every time you add a job to the box, write a short explanation or steps to complete it and attach the explanation to the job.  Sticky notes are great for doing this!

Odd jobs could include: laminating and cutting out, photocopying to replenish the sub tub, paper sorting, books to repair/ cover, or stationery that needs to be labelled and sorted.

You may need to pull some of these things out to complete yourself when the deadline is looming.  However, if you happen to get some extra help at the last minute you will already have a box of jobs waiting for someone to do them.  No more having to interrupt your teaching to find something for your impromptu volunteer squad to do. Instead you can simply smile and say,

“Yes please! If you could choose one or two jobs from the busy box it would make my day!”

While they are doing that, you might think of something else that’s more pressing.  You might decide that it would be better for this great adult to read with a struggling student or photocopy some worksheets for the next day.  If not, a small job gets done and you save time for the big jobs that no one else can possibly do for you.

Happy Teaching!

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The 2015 School Year Begins

School begins this week for many young Australian students while their Teachers are launching into their second official week of “SCHOOL”.  This year the staff at my school opted to attend four (4) Student Free Days prior to the commencement of the first school term and participate in another 8 hours of Professional Development activities during the school term.  All of this minute counting is a choice we make so that our mid-semester break will last for a full two weeks instead of a mere 7 days.  So, while the students are skipping along the path, enthusiastically unpacking their bags full of stationery and waving good bye to their parents, their teachers are frantically trying to find the lesson plan they scratched out somewhere between the morning briefing and the 1 toilet break.

Saying that our four days of Adult Learning was busy, frustrating, exhausting, disappointing and (frankly) unproductive, would be an understatement.  I can’t speak for all teachers in Australia.  In fact, I have heard from some of my teacher friends that many teachers were provided with time to work and learn collaboratively, discuss student support strategies and even create new resources for their classrooms.  However, my colleagues and I were subjected to operational lecture after operational lecture, general and very basic information sessions about teaching strategies (already to familiar to many of us) and a mildly entertaining presentation about the importance of providing appropriate feedback.  All of this could have easily been fitted into 5 hours after which we all could have applied our ‘new’ knowledge in a meaningful engagement with the real world situation we are all facing now – planning lessons and actually teaching students!!

I started this post with the intention of telling you all about what I had learned during the past week.  I did learn a few things. Unfortunately, I think it is more important for my students to learn quite a lot this semester and I fear that I’m not prepared to facilitate their coming journey!

If you stuck with me this far, you deserve to know what I really learned last week, so here it is in a nutshell.

  1. The word “but” is the great eraser.  Example: “Darling, you are beautiful… but… perhaps you should wear some more flattering clothes.”  A much better word… “AND”.  Example: “Darling, you are beautiful… and... I would love to give you the money to buy some new clothes.”
  2. Teachers talk too much! Including me!  If I can say it in 5 words, then I should.  Using 20 words when 5 will do only wastes everyone’s time and my energy.  This is especially true when I am speaking to a group of teenagers who will switch off by the time I get to the sixth word.
  3. Having high expectations of adults is just as important as having high expectations of children.  
  4. My new classroom is very hot.  If you open the windows before 8 am and turn all the fans on, it is bearable.
  5. People need time to breathe and process what they have heard, learned or experienced.  They need opportunities to connect their past experiences and knowledge with new information and experiences.  This is true of children, teenagers and adults.

Admittedly, I may have already known some of the above points before last week.  My experience last week and the time I have taken to reflect upon it, has highlighted a few things that I need to work on this year.  Things I need to do when I’m planning, when I’m teaching and when I’m interacting with my colleagues.

3 habits I’m going to try and develop as a teacher in 2015.

  • Use the word “AND” instead of “BUT”… I know this will require some thought which might be difficult AND I will get used to it eventually.
  • Talk LESS in my classroom.  I will need to think about this too (when I plan, give instructions and reflect on my lessons).
  • Allow the people around me (and myself) time to breathe- to connect, process, think – AND relax.

We have a plan for the year… let’s see how that goes.

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CPD and Infographics: Quick Tips

Infographics are usually read quickly with relative ease.  They are multi-modal texts that include references to other material (such as research studies, text books, teachers) while summarizing a topic or key issue.

Whenever you see an infographic that is relevant to your CPD goals (or it catches your eye as something you might want to explore in the future), use your online/ social media tools to share or save it (I like to Pin it).  Once a week, devote 30 minutes to reviewing the infographics you have saved and use them as a stepping stone to build your knowledge or skills.  Here are some easy ways to use all the “info” that you now have in graphic form.

1. COLLATE & COMPARE

Choose a topic and collate all the saved info you have on the topic.  Either print or create a PDF you now have a ready reference (fact sheet) about a topic that you can easily share or simply keep for yourself.   You could leave this tip here, but it will also help to compare the infographics.  Decide how each one is related to the others.  Does one give you broad headings while another gives data?  Are these useful? What is the key message that these graphics tell you? How is the message presented in each one?  How are you positioned?  Do all of the sources agree? I like to use coloured pens, sticky notes and highlighters to do this step but you might prefer to create a new summary (on a note taking application) or draw a flow chart.  Collate the saved infographics and your notes as an extended fact sheet.  You might decide that you only want to keep 3 of the 6 infographics that you collected in the first place.  These pins show how one topic can be represented in different ways.

 

2. EXPLORE

Choose one graphic and explore the issue/s more deeply.  Use the references at the bottom to do some further reading, Google the headings or use image search to find related articles online. Save these together with the image that got you started.  This pin gave me food for thought and prompted me to move beyond what I thought I knew about ADHD.

3. PLAN

Choose one graphic to study and create a simple goal/ plan to implement in your teaching tomorrow (next week).  Example: Vocabulary Strategies Do this-Not that! has ten great things you could start doing in your classroom immediately to improve your vocabulary instruction.  You could choose one of them and implement it in your classroom three times (this will give it a real chance to work).  Share this with your Professional Learning Network (PLN) and ask for their feedback or suggestions.

4. SHARE

Share one infographic with your PLN to spark a discussion.  Choose something that will give you opportunities to learn from them.  Example: Marzano’s 9 Effective Instructional Strategies provides an outline of these strategies, but you and your colleagues could all share a specific classroom activity that utilises one or more of the strategies.

5. CREATE

Choose one or several infographics to be the foundation for a blog series or display in your classroom.  Use the infographics you have as mentor texts.  Create your own infographic about the topic you are currently teaching.  Ask your students to help you create an infographic that summarizes the current unit of study.  Here are some examples of infographics created for the classroom

 Does anyone else feel like an infographic is just a poster?!  I think that too sometimes.  Infographics tend to be online tools rather than a print text and they usually include multiple graphic forms such as symbols and graphs, a paragraph of text as well as a flow chart.  Call it what you will, the infographic is a new and dynamic text and as teachers we can use these as tools to enhance learning for our students and ourselves.

Happy Learning!

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